Steven Boyd Saum
12 Dec 2010
The first computer that John Judnich ’13 owned had all the memory capacity of a microwave oven, but for an 8-year-old the price was right: $1 at the local thrift shop. Judnich threw himself into making the ancient machine do his bidding, discovering a thrill in programming that surpassed even his interest in disassembling electronics like VCRs to make robots. With a computer, he had a license to invent that required no hard-to-find parts, just his own imagination.
A decade later, Judnich’s creativity is available for purchase on your iPhone and iPad. The computer engineering major spent last Christmas break putting final touches on “Tank Battle: Iron Warfare,” a shoot-’em-up video game that turns your phone into a roving tank hunting down enemies over rolling landscapes. The game rolled out this spring; as of September, Judnich says he had sold more than 3,000 games at $1.99 a copy.
Not bad for a freshman, but then Judnich has always been advanced for his years. He got his first programming job at age 11 and was developing games for free downloads just a few years later. Home-schooled in the mountain town of Sonora, Calif., Judnich chose SCU because of the intimacy of the classes.
His academic interests include math and physics, fields that he says dovetail with computer science and the technical areas he wants to explore like neural networks and data compression. Expect more games to come. They’re the perfect environment to explore the intersection of 3-D graphics and artificial intelligence, Judnich says. Among his other projects: the charting of whole planets for a new game, and the game-speed rendering of dense forests with millions of trees, bushes, rocks, and fields awash in individual blades of grass.